Blog readers, football fans, sod it, people of the world… We all owe Kevin Prince Boateng a pint. Thanks to his awful tackle in the FA Cup final, Germany are in this tournament without their chief playmaker, and of course captain.
I would never wish such hard luck on anybody, not even Michael Ballack, but he leaves a star-sized gap in the middle of their team. Despite this however, never write off the Germans.
In new captain Philip Lahm, they have one of the most highly-rated full backs in the world (who is still only 26!), and the rest of the team does them no harm either. Players such as Mertesacker, Schweinsteiger, Gomez and Podolski will always give you a good game at international level, and if Miroslav Klose gets time on the field, he has never failed to put the ball in the onion bag.
However, at one time you may have looked at Group D and thought that it was a free ticket to the second round for the Germans, but that may be a little foolish this time around.
Joining England’s old football enemy are their rugby equivalent, Australia. Once thought of as a bit of a joke, they now boast a few excellent players of their own, and may have a thing or two to say about the outcome of this group.
In Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer they have one of the most consistant goalkeepers ever to grace the Premier League, and while Lucas Neill and Craig Moore aren’t exactly the most sought-after defenders around, they have been in the game long enough to understand their trade pretty well.
A midfield that boasts Premier League veterans Brett Emerton and Harry “sicknote” Kewell shouldn’t be laughed at either, especially when you take into account that Tim Cahill is part of it. The Evertonian’s ability to rise like a salmon in the box and beat players to headers will have Group D defenders in cold sweats the night before games.
And although Scott McDonald only plies his trade in the Championship, his scoring record for ‘Boro, and for Celtic before them speaks for itself. Don’t rule the Aussies out just yet.
A group which sees Ghana occupy third spot. And who do we have here, the afore mentioned Mr Prince Boateng? Expect their game against Ze Germans to be a rugged, needly and dare I say it hot-headed affair. Although I would never, of course, accuse the Germans of not having a sense of humour over such things.
Again there are plenty of familiar faces in the squad. Although their fans will be cursing their luck that one of the best players in the world, Michael Essien, won’t be making the trip to South Africa. Despite a demoralising 4-1 defeat to Holland a few days ago, there will undoubtedly be optimism in the ranks of the African outfit. The great Pele once said that an African team will win the World Cup in the coming years, and Ghana will be chomping at the bit in anticipation for their first game against Serbia.
With Sunderland loanee John “the Rock” Mensah at the back, Boateng, Appiah and Muntari in midfield, and the excellent Bakary Kone partnering ex-Arsenal wonderkid Quincy Owusu-Abeyie in the frontline, we might just be looking at a team that can, at least, finish second.
Which brings us on to Serbia. The team of many -vics look strong again, and with a defence that includes English double-winner Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Vidic, there won’t be many teams looking forward to playing them.
Creativity runs through their midfield, and Nicola Zigic will be hoping to bag the goals which (could) see them sneak the second spot.
Personally, I think that Ghana will have a little too much for them, and will go through to the second round with Germany, leaving Australia as unlucky losers in a thoroughly difficult group.